Homecare Association Calls on Administration to Improve Access to Home-based Care Consistent with Obama's Community-Living Initiative

Jun 29, 2010, 12:06 ET from American Association for Homecare

Current Medicare Policies Contradict Goals of President's Initiative

WASHINGTON, June 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Association for Homecare today called on the Obama administration to fix its "Community Living" initiative by changing Medicare policies that make it harder for seniors and people with disabilities to obtain home medical equipment that can help them live independently in their homes.

"Homecare providers are very frustrated that the Administration touts community living as an initiative to keep seniors and people with disabilities living independently in their homes, yet allows the Medicare program to adopt policies that are restricting access to vital home medical equipment,"  said Tyler J. Wilson, president of the American Association for Homecare.

Wilson noted, for instance, that providers of power wheelchairs are subjected to excessive audits, rampant denials of reimbursement claims, elimination of the first-month purchase option, and new guidelines for documenting medical necessity that are applied to claims filed months, or even years, before the standards were implemented. These measures, as well as the mislabeled "competitive" bidding process for home medical equipment, will force providers out of business, leaving Medicare patients with reduced access to power wheelchairs, oxygen therapy, and other homecare equipment and services.

In fact, HomeCare Magazine recently conducted a poll in which more than 30 percent of home medical equipment providers across the country said they don't expect to remain in business much longer.

"It's time for the Administration to support the aging-at-home concept with more than just words," Wilson said. "If the President is serious about allowing seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes where they can enjoy more freedom and independence, it is imperative that the Administration stop restrictive policies and work with the homecare community to ensure that Medicare patients receive the medical equipment that can keep them in their homes. The home is, by far, the most cost-effective setting for post-acute care."

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius celebrated the first year anniversary of the "Year of Community Living" initiative as well as the 11th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision.  The Community Living initiative creates collaboration between local, state, and federal human services and housing authorities in finding housing opportunities for people with disabilities who are in institutions, but could be living independently in their own homes.

In the Olmstead case, the Court upheld provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and ruled that it was discriminatory to unnecessarily institutionalize a person with a disability who, with proper support, can live in the community.  Furthermore, the Court ruled that institutionalization can severely limit someone's ability to interact with family and friends, to work, and to make a life for him or herself.

Wilson noted that homecare providers fully endorse the Olmstead ruling and support the President's Community Living initiative. But he added that providers want the Administration to review its own policies that are preventing seniors and people with disabilities from living in their homes. These policies, he said, are also wasting taxpayer money.

Studies by economists have shown that use of power mobility equipment such as power wheelchairs by beneficiaries saves the Medicare program a net average of approximately $10,000 over a two-year period because they need fewer hospitalizations and visits associated with falls and related injuries.  Even more taxpayer funds are saved when power wheelchairs delay placements in expensive nursing homes and other facilities.

"Administration policies should be consistent with the President's initiatives, such as Community Living," Wilson said.  "The aging-at-home concept is very popular with Medicare patients and it is good public policy.  It's time for the White House to get the Medicare bureaucracy on board so that our seniors and people living with disabilities can receive the care and services that they deserve."  

The American Association for Homecare represents durable medical equipment providers, manufacturers, and others  in the homecare community that serve the medical needs of millions of Americans who require oxygen equipment and therapy, mobility assistive technologies, medical supplies, inhalation drug therapy, and other medical equipment and services in their homes. Members operate more than 3,000 homecare locations in all 50 states.  Please visit www.aahomecare.org/athome.  

SOURCE American Association for Homecare